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Hattiesburg City Council OKs smoking ban

The city of Hattiesburg’s new anti-smoking ordinance will take affect Jan. 1.

The city council approved the ordinance Tuesday. It will ban smoking inside all buildings accessible to the public or businesses with employees and within 15 feet of the main entrances to those buildings.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Lillie Willis of the American Cancer Society, who has driven the ordinance since its earliest stages nearly five years ago.

While restaurants were given input into the ordinance, it is not being well-received across the board, said Clint Taylor, of the New South Restaurant Group and a member of the National Restaurant Association.

“The area restaurants really weren’t able to reach a consensus about this ordinance,” he said. “Restaurant owners had very cogent, passionate arguments on both sides of the issue, but I didn’t speak to anyone who opposed it based on the health impact.”

One of the major concerns among business owners is the financial impact. Taylor said he hopes non-smokers who favor smoke-free eating places will turn out to show that the ordinance is not a negative for local businesses.

“We’re hopeful about the economic impact,” he said. “Many people in the community say there are avid non-smokers who would go out and support restaurants more if they were non-smoking. Now is their time to shine.”